Saturday, April 25, 2015

PPE for Do-It-Yourselfers


When you hear the acronym PPE, what does that mean to you?  Have you even heard of it before?  It stands for Personal Protective Equipment and I first heard of it during some safety training for a former employer years ago.  That's just it!  Most people probably think that these things are only important while at work on a construction site, in a factory, or some environment like that.  The reality is that personal protective equipment is important at home as well.  Just because we have come to call these projects "DIY projects" doesn't mean we shouldn't think about safety, or perhaps even practice using PPE.  Whether you are working on a project around the house or in the yard, wearing the appropriate PPE can keep you safe.  So what is PPE?  Let's take a look at a few examples and why they are important (even for DIY projects).

1.   Safety Glasses 
Safety Glasses

Eye protection is important wherever there is even the slightest chance of an eye injury, such as:  grinding, sanding, using power tools, Nail guns, lawnmowers, and weed-eaters.  Safety glasses are now available in a variety of sizes and styles.  You can even get them in clear or tinted.  To make sure they are actually rated for "safety", check the inside of the ear piece.  They should be stamped with "Z-87" or "Z-87.1".  You eyes are extremely important, so don't take them for granted!

2.   Ear Protection
Ear Protection

Unlike most parts of the body, when you damage your ears it doesn't always cause pain.  Being exposed to loud noises over a long period of time can cause hearing loss without you even knowing it.  Hearing loss affects your quality of life and is irreversible.  There are many forms of ear protection on the market.  There are Ear Plugs and Ear Muffs and both come in different styles.  The main thing to remember is to pick the one that is rated for your task and make sure you where them correctly.

3.   Dust Mask
Dust Mask

Anytime you are working around dust that can be inhaled, a dust mask should be worn.  Projects such as sanding (whether wood or drywall), painting, or even mowing the lawn, protection from dust is important.  Inhalation of dust can cause respiratory problems or even worse health problems.  If your using a mask like the one pictured above, be sure to form the metal strip on top to fit the bridge of your nose.  If you don't, dust can still get in and you won't be getting the protection you need.

4.    Gloves

Gloves not only give you a better grip at times, they do protect your hands, as well.  They prevent cuts, scrapes, and blisters when handling sharp or rough materials.  Gloves come in many different forms.  They are made of various materials for different uses.  A lot of construction work gloves are made of leather, canvas, or cloth.  Latex or rubber gloves are often used when working with chemicals.  Kevlar gloves are typically used when working with knives or other sharp objects.  Make sure to wear the appropriate glove and also make sure it fits.  A glove that is too big or too small can cause more problems.

I've only listed a few examples in hopes to get the message across.  In fact, there are numerous other forms of PPE available.  Hard Hats and Safety Toe Workboots are a couple of main ones.  OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) require the appropriate PPE on construction sites and all workplaces in the country.  Even though you may be just working on a project at your house, I urge you to think about two things:  What you are doing, and What the potential hazards are.  If there is anything you can do to prevent yourself of injury (like wearing PPE), it would definitely be worth it!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

10 Safety Tips for Using a Ladder


Do you use ladders often around the house?  Maybe you're a handyman (or handywoman) yourself and ladders are a regular tool that you use.  Do you think about ladder safety when you use them?  I know it can be easy for some to take ladders for granted, but the simple fact is that improper use of step ladders and extension ladders cause many injuries.  In an effort to create awareness for safety on the job or around the house, the following guidelines will help you use a ladder safely:

  1. Don't use aluminum ladders around energized lines or equipment.  Use a ladder made of a non-conductive material such as fiberglass.
  2. Inspect your ladder before each use.  Look for any missing, loose, or cracked parts.  If the ladder is not in good condition, do not use it!  This is how many accidents happen.
    Step Ladder Parts
  3. Always place an extension ladder at the proper angle.  It is suggested that you place the ladder so that the bottom of the ladder is about one-fourth the vertical height from the structure it is up against (1:4 ratio).
  4. The ladder should extend at least 3 feet above the top support when placed against a structure that is not as tall as the ladder (for example, a roof).  Since ladder rungs are approximately 12 inches apart, a good practice would be to make sure there are at least 3 rungs of the ladder above the roof.
    Proper Angle for a Ladder
  5. Set ladders on firm footing and tie them off where possible.  Avoid shimming the ladder up with rocks, boards, etc.
  6. Use the 3-Point Rule.  When climbing up or down, make sure you have three points of contact with the ladder all the time (either 2 hands & 1 foot, or 1 hand & 2 feet).  Make sure you are facing the ladder while climbing also! 
  7. Make sure to open a step ladder up all the way and lock the spreaders in place.
  8. Keep hands free of tools while going up or down.  Tools and materials can be pulled up with a rope.
  9. The top two rungs are not for standing on a step ladder.  Standing on them may cause the ladder to fall, resulting in serious injury to you.
  10. Do not leave materials or tools on top of a step ladder.  They can fall off and injure someone.
Ladder to the Sky

While safety requires personal responsibility in more ways than this, these guidelines will help you remain safe while using ladders and, hopefully, help create a safety culture in the way you #DIY!  For more information on #safety, be looking for my upcoming post on PPE (personal protective equipment)!


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How to build a Workbench


How important is a good workbench?  Extremely!  It doesn't matter if you're working on a woodworking project, automotive project, or any other kind of project.  Having a good bench to work on will make your job a lot easier.  And if you need, you can also incorporate shelves into it as well (who doesn't like extra storage space, huh?).  The intent of this post is to show you my idea of a good sturdy workbench and how to build one yourself.

Now, your workbench can be built to any dimension.  The main thing is to build it to accommodate the work area you need it for, while making sure it's at a comfortable height.  The particular workbench I've built for this post is 16' long and 24" deep.  It also has a shelf below that is 18" deep.  Before we get started, let's talk about what you are going to need, such as:


  • Circular Saw
  • Miter Saw
  • Jig Saw
  • Cordless Drill
  • 4' Level
  • Tape Measure
  • Chalk Line
Material:    *These amounts are for the particular bench described in this post.
  • (2)- 4" x 4" x 8' Posts
  • (7)- 2" x 4" x 16'  Lumber or (14)- 2" x 4" x 8' Lumber
  • (2)- ¾" Sanded Pine Plywood
  • (3#)- 3" Screws
  • (3#)- 1-5/8" Screws

To get started, let's make some measurements and mark them on the wall and floor.  To make this workbench at a comfortable height, it will be 40" off the floor (again, this can be whatever height you like).  To allow for the thickness of the plywood (¾"),  make a mark on the wall at 39 ¼" from the floor.  Make this mark at both ends of where the bench will be.  Once both marks are made, use a chalk box and snap a line from one point to the other.  This mark will be for the bench top frame.  Now for the shelf frame, let's chalk a line at 19 ¼" from the floor.  This will put the shelf below at 20" high, and half the distance as the bench top.  Now that all the marks have been made on the wall, you can start building the frame.

 Let's start with the middle shelf, and using the miter saw, cut two 2" x 4"s to 16' long.  Next, cut 13 boards to 15" long.  This will make the joists (or framing members going from front to back) for the frame.  These boards will be attached in between the long boards every 16 inches (or 16" o.c.).  Once this is put together, attach it to the wall at the lower chalk line with 3" screws into the studs in the wall.  Temporarily hold the outside of the frame off the floor with scrap boards.


Now that the frame for the middle shelf is attached to the wall and propped up by scrap boards, cut your 4" x 4" posts into 4 pieces at 39 ¼" long each.  These will be the legs for the workbench.  You can lay these posts inside the frame, on the backside of the front board.  Try to keep these posts evenly spaced and no more than 4' apart.  With posts in place, use a 4' level to make sure that they are plumb (plumb means vertically level, or level up and down).  Once they are plumb, anchor them to the frame with 3" screws.

Jig Saw PlywoodWorkbench

Since the middle shelf is going to be 18" deep, use the circular saw and cut one piece of ¾" plywood down to 18" wide by 8' long.  This will be enough to cover half the length of the shelf so you will also have to cut a second piece of plywood to cover the entire length.  Before you install the plywood, you will need to measure and mark where the posts are, and cut the holes out using a Jig saw.  Once cut, you can lower the plywood over the top of the posts and down onto the frame.  Attach the plywood to the frame using 1-5/8" screws.  Congratulations, you are half way there!


After building the shelf, the rest of the process should be easy!  Just like the middle shelf frame, cut two 2" x 4"s to 16' long.  Next, cut 13 boards to 21" long to make the joists (this is because the top of the bench will stick out 6 inches more than the middle shelf).  Just like before, attach the joists between the 16' long boards every 16 inches (or 16" o.c.).  The only thing different that you'll want to do on the top, as opposed to the middle, is to attach another 16' long 2" x 4" across the posts at 35 ¾" from the floor.  This is called a ledger board and will sit just below where the top frame will need to go.  After doing this, the top frame can attach to the wall with 3" screws at the original line you made at 39 ¼".  The front will sit over the top of the ledger board and will be screwed into it with 3" screws also.  The ledger board adds strength to the top shelf, and is needed since it will be hanging out over the posts.  Once the top frame is installed, you can cut the plywood to fit (which will be 24 inches wide this time) and installed using the 1-5/8" screws.  The last thing that I would recommend would be a good sanding across all parts of the bench, especially the top!

Now you can step back and look at the work you've done.  One advantage to this bench is that the top is cantilevered over the legs.  You should now be able to freely walk from one end to the other without tripping over the legs!  Another cool thing about building a workbench is that you've now built something that can help you build something else!  Cool, huh?

I cannot end this post without giving some credit.  I first got the idea for writing this post after reading the blog- Flipping The Flip.  The author, Becky, wrote a great post about building a workbench, along with many other projects.  I encourage you all to check out her blog when you have a chance! A lot of good stuff there!   As always, please leave me a comment and tell me what you think about this post, or any others of mine!